NUPD to host body camera input meeting

Meeting is Monday in NU?City Hall

NEW ULM — In an effort to create a Body Worn Camera (BWC) Policy and Implementation Program, the New Ulm Police Department (NUPD) is partnering with the New Ulm Human Rights Commission to host a public meeting on the subject in the city council chambers at 6:15 p.m., this Monday, Jan. 22.

The NUPD was awarded a Bureau of Justice Assistance financial grant to aid in the policy development and acquire equipment.

New Ulm Police Sgt. Jeremy Reed urged anyone interested in the subject to attend the meeting.

New Ulm Police Commander Dave Borchert said the department plans to have body cameras in place as soon as possible in 2018.

“We’re really looking for community input on what type of equipment we will purchase, including cameras and servers,” Borchert said. “In addition, we’re looking for guidance on when cameras are turned on and off.”

Borchert said police have already received input from EMS (emergency medical services) worried about what happens when their patients are recorded on police body cameras.

“They (EMS) have patient privacy concerns, which is valuable input, moving parts we want to know about,” Borchert said. “We want to know what the public consensus is. We want open dialogue and discussion on these issues, which can have unintended actions and consequences.”

Borchert said other issues include what policy should be used regarding situations, including combative suspects after cameras are turned off.

“If we have to use force, what policy should we have?” Borchert said. “This will be our most extensive police department policy. In addition, we have to meet state and federal requirements.”

Borchert said the Minnesota Public Data Act addresses the subject.

“When we collect data, there is a presumption that it’s public. Unless we have a valid policy or there is a state or federal law that deems data to be private, we have to share it, “ Borchert said.

The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association (MCPA) has released a statement on body-worn cameras.

“We believe any body-worn camera legislation must protect people’s privacy, hold police accountable and ensure body camera programs are manageable for Minnesota police agencies,” read the statement.

In an information memo, the League of Minnesota Cities, that serves more than 800 member cities with advocacy, education, training, policy development, risk management and other services, BWC’s provide a means of capturing more convincing proof for use in criminal cases and protecting officers against false claims of wrongdoing.

In addition, the LMC said communities should take stock of the cost of setting up and maintaining a BWC program. Costs include buying the necessary hardware and software, arranging and paying for data storage, responding to access requests, preparing data for release, and paying for independent, biennial BWC program audits.

Policy requirements include

• Data classifications, access procedures, and retention policies.

• Procedures for testing recording equipment, documenting malfunction reports, and addressing malfunctions.

• Circumstances under which recording is mandatory, prohibited, or left to officer discretion.

• Circumstances under which officers must tell people they are being recorded.

• Guidelines for when a recording may be ended.

• Procedures for secure storage of data and creation of back-up copies.

• Procedures to ensure compliance with the policy and to address violations.

In addition, the memo read that most all agree officers should turn their cameras on when they anticipate making an arrest, using force, or finding themselves in conflict situations with members of the public.

Developing guidelines on when to record involves tradeoffs, the memo read. If the agency’s goal for having BWCs is to maximize accountability, then the most logical policy choice may be to have officers turn on their cameras whenever they respond to a call for service or interact with someone in the community.

On the other hand, if the agency’s goal is only to gather better proof for use in criminal cases, then it might make sense to have officers treat body cameras like any other evidence-gathering tool, and exercise their professional judgement in deciding when to record.

Minnesota Police Departments with BWC include St. Paul, Minneapolis, Duluth, Hutchinson, Rochester, Tracy, Madelia, Upper and Lower Sioux Communities, among others.